Wednesday Dec 01, 2021

Acts 2:41

Wednesday, 1 December 2021


Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. Acts 2:41

Peter has given the instructions to those of Israel before him concerning what they must do in order to, as he said, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” The instructions were found in verse 2:38, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.”


The reason for this is because they are a part of Israel and because they lived during the time of this “perverse generation” that had crucified the Lord. Thus, they bore the national guilt of Israel, whether they had actually participated in His crucifixion or not. Therefore, they had to repent (change their mind). It was a necessary part of their conversion. Further, the baptism was to show an alignment with Christ, thus rejecting the actions against Him that had taken place.


The account describes what occurred and why. It does not prescribe anything for us today because it is not normative in the process of salvation as laid out in the epistles. This is a one-time event that sets apart believers in Christ from those who would not believe.


Remembering this now, we read the continued words of Luke, “Then those who gladly received his word.” The word translated as “received,” apodechomai, is a forceful one used only by Luke, mostly in Acts that signifies “to gladly receive.” In some manuscripts, such as that used for the NKJV, it is accompanied by the word asmenós, signifying “with delight.” Thus, there is a heightened sense of the joy they felt as they anticipated a joyous turn of events in their lives.


Though the words are merely descriptive, they go to the heart of the gospel, and they clearly convey the doctrine of free will. Nothing is said here, or anywhere else in Scripture that God caused them to receive the word. They heard the word preached, and they have faith that the word is true –


“But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:16, 17


The word “obey” cited by Paul in Romans 10 clearly means “to believe,” as it does elsewhere in this context. These people before Peter heard the good news, and in their hearing, they had faith (they “received his word”). Of those who received this word, it next says they “were baptized.”


This is in accord with the Lord’s instructions of Matthew 28 –


“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” Matthew 28:18-20


The people had believed, meaning they had faith after receiving the word. In this, they were saved. And so, as an outward demonstration of the inward change, they were water baptized. Because nothing is said of them receiving the Holy Spirit it cannot be known if that came before or after the water baptism. But the equation of Mark 16:16, which was cited when Acts 2:38 was evaluated, says that the Holy Spirit is received upon belief.


As such, it can be reasonably inferred that this is the case here. From that point, these now-saved believers were obedient to the word of the Lord recorded in Matthew 28, and they were baptized. But even if during this recorded event the Spirit came upon them after water baptism, such would not be normative for the church age.


For example, the description of the coming of the Spirit in Acts 8 and Acts 10 will be different than it is here. What is presented in these three chapters is not to establish a norm for the church, but to provide confirmation to Peter that these various groups had, in fact, been accepted by God. This will be seen as the accounts are evaluated.


As noted in the Acts 2:38 commentary, and supposing Peter was speaking of water baptism (something that cannot be wholly determined from the text), this could not be considered a work for these people. Rather, it would be a necessary condition to bring them into the proper category where they co  uld be acceptable to receive the Spirit. The categorical requirements were set forth. In being water baptized, this group of people would have then met the categorical requirement.


As the timing of the coming of the Spirit upon them is not recorded, it cannot be known what Peter was referring to with one hundred percent certainty. The point, however, is that Luke is providing a historical record of what occurred. He is not setting doctrine for the church. And so, either way, this is not to be considered a normative standard. It is simply a description of what took place. With this understood, it next says, “and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”


A great number indeed! They had heard the words of Peter, they had believed the message, and they were saved. In being saved (either way), they were water baptized as a way of publicly professing their new faith in Christ Jesus.


The number three thousand is an important number to see and understand. This is because it fulfills a pattern that is set forth in Scripture in which a theological point is made. In Exodus 32, we read –


Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’” 28 So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 29 Then Moses said, “Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother.” Exodus 32:25-29


At Sinai, which according to Galatians 4 symbolizes the temple in Jerusalem, the law was received, and it was written on tablets of stone. Those tablets were given to Moses but were broken at the base of the mountain because of the people’s turning from the Lord to a false God. After this, three thousand people died because of their sins.


In Acts 2, at the temple in Jerusalem, the word of the Lord was again given, but this time it was written on the tablets of the hearts of the people, as Paul calls the work of the Spirit in 2 Corinthians 3:3. In this, three thousand people were saved because of their faith in Christ Jesus.


The two accounts are given to show the superiority of the fulfilled law in Christ to the giving of the law by Moses. One was written on stone, and it leads to death. The other is written on the heart, and it leads to life.


It was a perverse generation who failed to believe, having time and again rejected the Lord in the wilderness, and it was a perverse generation who rejected Christ and sought to seek their own righteousness apart from Him.


The lesson we see is that for those three thousand who died at Sinai, they died in sin because of their deeds and their failure to believe. For the three thousand who received Jesus in Jerusalem, they died to sin because of faith in the deeds of Jesus. The contrast is complete.


Life application: The question for each of us is, “When the Lord comes to visit us for punishment, will it be punishment in us for the sins we have committed in this life, or will it have been in Christ for those same sins?” These are the only two options available to man.


If our sins have been judged in Christ, our names are written in the book of life, and they shall never be blotted out; we have overcome. If our sins have not been dealt with through Him, then another fate awaits


It is the most marvelous news – in Christ, God so pardons sin as to remember our sin no more! The world doesn’t even want to hear about sin. But it is a reality that cannot be denied when considering the holiness of God. 


Today many churches are filled with worshippers quite often because the church is geared towards the carnal man. There are promises of health, wealth, and prosperity, but there is no heart for the grace of God which frees us from sin. The sin is passed over and not dealt with. Or churches return their people to the law in an attempt to turn away the wrath of God. But God rejects this.


What God has done is to accomplish all the work that is necessary for our salvation in and through the Person of Jesus Christ. To return to the law is to reject this. It is a self-condemning act. Or, to fail to acknowledge one’s sins at all means that such a person doesn’t really need a Savior. It too is a self-condemning act.




Lord God, there is nothing surer in my life than the fact that I need a Savior from sin. I know that You sent Christ Jesus into the world to accomplish this, and I receive the offer You have made in Him. I receive the good news! Thank You, O God, for Jesus. Hallelujah and Amen.

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